Long before there was language to describe the tangible and intangible ways that employees are received and evaluated, marked for promotion or demotion, and/or have their work duties and hours increased or decreased, it was discovered that the reasons did not solely have to do with whether the employee was the most skilled on the job – although that was important. Much of it had to do with whether the employee provided pleasant customer service, showed up to work on time, appeared neat and clean, worked cooperatively, took on unpleasant tasks, and did more than the minimum requirement. Today, those competencies are known as soft skills or foundational skills.
While hard skills (technical skills often achieved through education and training) are necessary to complete the job, Soft skills are equally as important as they reflect workplace behavior and attitude. If you’ve read a job posting lately, you will quickly realize that foundational skills are now being highlighted alongside technical skills in the Requirements section. Some examples of phrases regarding soft skills are: “must be a good team player,” “provide customer service,” “work within a team setting,” or “be flexible.”
In recent studies, employers have said they would rather hire a candidate that lacks job expertise (hard skills), but is trainable and dependable (soft skills), over a candidate that is an expert in their field yet lacks in dependability, time management, and/or conflict resolution. Other employers report that while they may hire largely for technical skills, they mainly let employees go due to a lack of foundational skills.
So, how can this information help you in your job search and/or career advancement?
You can assess the soft skills you are lacking, reflect them in your résumé, exhibit them during the screening and interview process, adopt new foundational skills, and use them consistently and universally at work.
This article is first in a 3-part series. Check back here soon for parts two and three, which will provide more information on ways we can assess, reflect, exhibit, adopt and use soft skills to our benefit in the workplace!
Written by: Kim Lott, Career Consultant, TANF